Manchester United players have turned their backs on Manchester City-bound Wayne Rooney — with one of them, Patrice Evra, stating that the striker should never play for the club again.
In a statement last night, United indicated they had managed to make no breakthrough after a day of talks between Sir Alex Ferguson, his chief executive David Gill and Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford, despite the manager’s promise 24 hours earlier that the de-stabilising issue would be “put to bed” yesterday.
“We are aware that there is intense public and media interest on the club at the moment, but there are no developments of note to report today,” read an official club statement, released last night.
“I can confirm a number of meetings have taken place today, including with the player's representative.
“The outcome of those meetings will become clear in the near future. In the meantime, fans are asked to be patient.”
Ferguson’s promise of drawing a line under the “bagatelle,” as he described the saga late on Wednesday evening, took some at United by surprise as there had hitherto been no expectation that another statement would be required.
But the manager's revelation that Gill had contacted the Glazers on Wednesday does show that a quick resolution to the problem is being urgently pursued.
The solutions include some kind of temporary rapprochement with Rooney, with whom United have been engaged in a very public battle all week; or agreement on a new contract which would shatter United’s pay structure, take Rooney close to £200,000 a week and make United competitive with Manchester City.
Alternatively, there may be the announcement of mutual agreement that Rooney will be allowed to leave.
Considering the Glazers are being consulted, the latter seems by far the most likely, though an admission of defeat in United’s attempts to keep the player can only further weaken United’s negotiating position for a player who, by insisting he wants out, may already have reduced his value to £30m.
Rooney’s former teammate Carlos Tevez added fuel to the fire last night, with those close to the player suggesting that Manchester City’s owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed An Nahyan had consulted the club captain about the wisdom of signing, with Tevez asserting that “with Wayne we will win everything”.
Ferguson, who yesterday cancelled a fourth successive Friday press conference, has not ruled out the notion that Rooney will play no further games for United.
Evra subscribed to the same view as he led expressions of hurt and dismay at the statement the 24-year-old issued before Wednesday’s Champions League tie with Bursaspor which doubted the “continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world” and “win trophies.”
Evra said that: “If one player does not trust the other players, that player should not play.
“I am not like that as I trust everyone and I know we can win.”
The Rooney saga prompted an extraordinary array of responses.
Arsene Wenger made a suggestion that it reveals the worthlessness of contracts to some mercenary players, while Ian Holloway’s extraordinary outburst, railed against the Bosman ruling which enables Rooney to leave on a free transfer when his contract expires in 20 months time.
And looking at it from the point of view of the players, former United player Lou Macari intimated that in his day, had someone said what Rooney did, the consequences would have been much different.
“I have never known a player have the cheek to do what he has done,” Macari said.
“Had he been playing in the Seventies or Eighties, the players in the dressing room ... well, they would have left him in no doubt and would have asked him just what he was playing at.
“They think they are good enough to win trophies. Does he not think that? It's a slight on his fellow professionals.”
He added: “I know some of the players who have come and gone: better players than Wayne Rooney.
“I have never known any of them to have the cheek to ask the people who run the best football club in the world what they are doing.”